Impatiens glandulifera - Policeman's helmet

Family: Balsaminaceae [E-flora]


"Policeman's helmet is an introduced summer annual that is native to the Himalayas, but has spread around the world since seeds were first sent from the Himalayas to KEW gardens in England in 1839. In North America it is found in the USA, primarily along the Pacific Coast and in the New England States (CA, CT, ID, MA, ME, MI, MT, NY, OR, VT, WA) and in Canada it is found in eight provinces (BC, MB, NB, NF, NS, ON, PE, QC) (USDA 2010). In British Columbia, it is found primarily in the southern part of the province, around Victoria, in the Fraser Valley, and in southeastern BC Policeman's helmet is an easily identified species of Impatiens, 0.6 to 2.0 m in height, which produces distinctive white to pink, purple-spotted flowers with short recurved spurs. Flowering occurs from July to September. It can form thick homogeneous stands in moist shady spots along creeks, riverbanks and sloughs and in open sunny ditches. It produces abundant seed in seed capsules that explode when ripe allowing near dispersal and thick growth. The earliest collection record for this species in the UBC Herbarium is 1937, when it was collected at Still Creek, BC by John Eastman." [E-flora]

"[Policeman's helmet's] high reproductive rate, early germination, propensity for establishing thick stands, rich nectar production, hardiness, and habitat tolerance and plasticity have allowed it to spread rapidly, dominate landscapes, and compete with and displace native plant species." (Global Invasives Database 2010)."[E-flora]

Origin Status: Exotic [E-flora]

Habitat / Range "Moist to mesic streambanks, meadows, roadsides and waste places in the lowland and steppe zones; infrequent in the lower Fraser Valley and extreme SC BC; introduced from Asia." [IFBC-E-flora]


Calcium Oxylate

See below

Edible Uses

Other Uses


"The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Impatience', 'Irritability' and 'Extreme mental tension'[209]. It is also one of the five ingredients in the 'Rescue remedy'[209]." [PFAF]

Preparation: "The flower essence remedy Impatiens is prepared employing the sun method. To prepare this Bach Flower Remedy, you need to only pick the light mauve flowers. These flowers need to be collected along with their thin stalks and subsequently be floated on water in a bowl. The bowl containing the flowers needs to be positioned in such a manner that the surface is properly exposed to sunlight. It is important to select a location where the impatiens flowers bloom really robustly and they need to be picked from as many different plants as you can." []

Uses : "As the name suggests, the flower essence remedy Impatiens is especially effective in treating condition wherein an individual lacks tolerance or patience and has a propensity to nervousness as well as restiveness." []

Cultivation & Propagation

"Many plants have root systems that are morphological combinations of the above forms and/or exhibit intermediate forms of behaviour. In particular, the exact location and angle of growth of roots close to the soil surface are often more important than the presence of a tap root or of prop roots in determining the mode of anchorage failure. For example, both sunfl ower (Helianthus annuus) with its large tap root and laterals that grow radially outwards and downwards, and Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) with its prop root system, behave in failure like the plate systems of trees with a leeward hinge (Ennos et al., 1993). In both plants, the wide spread of the lateral or prop roots restricts rotational or downward movement of the root system so that the system can only fail by being levered upwards." [Gregory PR]



Stem: lower generally with adventitious roots. Leaf: alternate, opposite, or whorled; stipules 0 or gland-like. Flower: variously spotted or lined; sepals 3, lateral 2 greatly reduced, ± green, lower with nectar spur, not green; petals apparently 3, lateral 2 forming a lip, upper 1 a banner over mouth of tube. Fruit: green. Seed: 1–7, green to black, ridged or papillate.
± 850 species: tropics, warm temperate, Eurasia, Africa, boreal America. (Latin: impatient, from explosive fruit) [Zika 2006 Novon 16:443–448]
Unabridged references: [Zika 2006 J Torrey Bot Soc 133:593–600; Zika, P. F. 2006. Impatiens ×pacifica (Balsaminaceae), a new hybrid jewelweed from the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Novon 16: 443–448; Zika, P. F. 2006. The status of Impatiens capensis (Balsaminaceae) on the Pacific Northwest coast. J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 133: 593–600.] [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Impatiens capensis - spotted touch-me-not [E-flora]
  2. Impatiens glandulifera - policeman's helmet [E-flora]
  3. Impatiens noli-tangere - common touch-me-not [E-flora]
  4. Impatiens parviflora - Small touch-me-not [E-flora]

Taxonomic Key to Impatiens

Species Mentioned:


Calcium Oxalate

I. noli-tangere, I. ecalcarata, I. glandulifera; "Regular ingestion of large quantities of these plants can be dangerous due to their high mineral content[172]. This report, which seems nonsensical, might refer to calcium oxalate. This mineral is found in I. capensis and so is probably also in other members of the genus. It can be harmful raw but is destroyed by thoroughly cooking or drying the plant[K]. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones and hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet[238]." [PFAF]

Only young cooked jewelweed shoots and leaves should be eaten. Jewelweed has such a high mineral content, excess quantities could be harmful. In older plants, a bitter principle develops that can be purgative to the intestinal tract. Don't consume the mature foliage.

Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Topical Aid

Herb crushed and rubbed directly on poison ivy sores as an itch-relieving treatment. Some use the juice. Jewelweed has fungicidal properties and has been used to treat athlete's foot. Rubbed on skin rashes and eczema.

Another method entails boiling jewelweed stems and leaves and washing with the decoction; You can freeze the decoction so the remedy is available whenever needed.

Though poison ivy is lacking in Alaska, nettles and cow parsnips abound. Rash-prone people might try bathing in a jewelweed herbal bath before gardening near these skin-irritating herbs. This is reported to be a good preventive.

The fresh herb, boiled in lard, makes a salve said to be effective on hemorrhoids. The expressed juice is recommended for warts and ringworm.


  1. Impatiens glandulifera,, In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2013. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 5/19/2014 6:10:59 PM ]
  2. Bach Flower Remedies,, Accessed May 19, 2014
  3. Jepson - Peter F. Zika, 2013. Impatiens, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 19 2014
  4. [PFAF] Impatiens glandulifera, Plants For A Future,, Accessed May 19, 2014

Page last modified on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 6:34 PM